Driver not charged in girl's death
DA can't meet burden of proof in day care case
By BOB PURVIS
Posted: Sept. 20, 2005
A driver arrested after leaving a 2-year-old girl to die in a sweltering day care van in June will not be charged, Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann announced Tuesday.
The district attorney's office had struggled since Asia Jones died June 9 of hyperthermia outside the Come and Grow with Me Learning and Arts Center in West Allis to determine if, by forgetting to remove the girl from the van, driver Ronald Turkvan had committed a crime.
The district attorney considered charging Turkvan with three crimes: neglecting a child with death as a consequence; second-degree reckless homicide; and physical abuse of a child causing great bodily harm, McCann said.
By early July, McCann had already rejected the charge of second-degree reckless homicide police initially sought against Turkvan, saying the burden of proof is too great.
In the end the district attorney couldn't prove Turkvan demonstrated conscious disregard when he forgot her in the back of the van, a key element the state must prove in the other two charges, McCann said.
"All of those statutes in effect require a conscious disregard," McCann said. "It's a great tragedy, and I think it's terrible that we can't do anything about it."
Asia's family was notified Friday of the decision, McCann said.
Another snag in trying to charge Turkvan was that there are essentially no national, state or local procedural standards that require a driver to make sure everyone is out of the van after every stop.
Because Wisconsin's child-care regulations do not require drivers to sign children on and off vehicles, McCann said, prosecutors pored over the company's training and policy manuals and researched industry practices to determine whether Asia's day care should have known to do so.
In the end they found just a single day-care center in Milwaukee that had a written requirement to do that.
The case brings to light a serious problem in Wisconsin child care, where drivers at child-care centers need a driver's license but no additional child-care training, McCann said.
"Absolutely, that should be required," McCann said.
Attempts to reach Asia's family at home and by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Turkvan picked up the girl about 7:30 a.m. on a trip in which he picked up several other children, whom he dropped off at the day care before punching out shortly after 8:30 a.m., according to a Milwaukee County medical examiner's report.
After returning to the day care for his afternoon rounds shortly before 3 p.m., Turkvan drove to Horace Mann Elementary School in West Allis to pick up another child before returning to the center, all with Asia still in a back seat.
Turkvan was flagged down by the center's owner, Duane Gladney, as he returned to the center. The two then discovered Asia in the car seat, the report says.
According to the autopsy, Asia died of hyperthermia - her organs essentially shut down as her body temperature spiked in the hot car, explained Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen.
The medical examiner's report said temperatures that day rose to a high of 85 degrees, and it estimated that the internal temperature of the van would have been 43 degrees higher than the outside temperature if it was parked for an hour.
After Asia's death, the state Department of Health and Family Services revoked the license of day-care operator Shontina Gladney, saying she and Turkvan "committed substantial violations" of the state's day care licensing rules.
In addition, the state gave all group day care centers until Aug. 15 to adopt written policies requiring them to notify a parent or guardian if a child is absent without notification and to track all children being transported, from the time they're picked up until they're delivered to the responsible caregiver.
State Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) is drafting legislation to require alarm systems in child-care fleets that require drivers to pass each passenger seat to turn the alarm off and ensure each child is accounted for.
The bill could be assigned to committee by the end of the week, Coggs said.
"The DA's office didn't think they could prove the driver intentionally contributed to the neglect, yet an innocent child dies, and so that says to me that there is even more of an importance to get this passed so we can take human error out of the equation," Coggs said upon learning of McCann's decision.
Where's a lynch mob when you need one?
If I were the parent I think me, Mr. Bushmaster, the driver and the DA would have a "sit down and talk" session.
Most of the talking being done by Mr. Bushmaster who would be representing me at the meeting.
Where is negligent homicide?
+1 Why didn't they just take the little girls mother out and punch her in the stomach? Patty
Well this sux!!!
Locally I can think of one case where a child died after being left in a closed car. The parent claimed they forgot the child in the car..............
I can think of a few where a parent left their child(ren) in a locked car while they ran errands.............
In the death no charges were filed, because they believed it was accidental.
In the others, where it was inentional, and the kid(s) survived, charges were filed.